April is National IBS month so I wanted to share some advice and support to those 2 in 10 of us in the UK that suffer with it.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system with the symptoms being a mix of things like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and general fatigue. These symptoms tend to come and go over time and can last for days, weeks or months at a time.
Although there often isn’t one ‘cause’ of IBS, there are often a few things that can contribute to gut distress and quite often I see themes with whats happening with clients who struggle with gut health. To give you an idea of what you can do to support your IBS, these are 3 common areas I look at with my 1:1 clients:
- Identify if there is a ‘trigger’ to your symptoms
Quite often when it comes to IBS it is really important to do some digging to get an idea about what is going on in your body. GP’s often don’t have time to chat through potential triggers which is why they often have to rely on medication to ease symptoms.
As nutritional therapy sessions are often 60-90minutes long we have an amazing opportunity to do some digging! I will always do a health history timeline with clients, look at family health conditions and even take the time to find out if there are certain foods that trigger you.
Your health timelines can often identify if there was a particular trigger to the symptoms such as a course of anti-biotics or an upset stomach whilst abroad. These triggers are then a great starting place to help me identify what’s best in terms of nutrition, supplement and testing recommendations.
The family health history gives me an idea whether there could be genetic causes to symptoms as often things like a family history of Coeliac disease can mean that further testing with your GP is required.
Finally by having individuals take note of any food triggers that might be cause them a problem we can then look into this in more detail and even try methods like an elimination diet* to identify food intolerances or sensitivities.
*Elimination diets should always be completed alongside a trained health professional (like me!)
2) Are you managing your stress?
Stress can have a HUGE impact on our gut health which is why it is quite fitting that April is also national Stress Month!
When we are stressed, our blood is often directed to our arms and legs to help with our stress response so we are nice and ready to run away or fight our threat! Unfortunately though this means that our digestion and our gut repair processes are totally forgotten about.
Sometimes by taking a little amount of time to really notice the stresses in your life and come up with a toolbox of ways to manage them is one of the most powerful things you can do to help manage symptoms.
In my sessions with clients I love supporting individuals to create a plan to help them deal with stress. I know personally what helps me (like exercise and meditation) but as this is so personal to each person, it’s great to support someone to come up with their own plan. I then get to get feedback on how they’re getting on through our weekly email catch ups.
3) Are you eating mindfully?
I get it… sometimes when we’re eating we don’t actually focus on what we are eating. I am no angel when it comes to this either and quite often I have to remind myself to put down my phone or try and stop my brain chatter of to-do lists to create more room for thoughts of chewing, tasting and ENJOYING!
When we are not concentrating on our food we can often not chew our foods properly and aren’t in the right ‘mindset’ to be able to digest effectively. Not only do we often have to be looking at our food to create some of our digestive enzymes to break down food but if we are eating on the move or rushing around whilst trying to eat we often don’t digest our food properly. This can lead to things like bloating, gas and even gut pain (hello IBS symptoms!).
These are some of the main things that are really important to look into when you are trying to manage your IBS symptoms.
Although getting to the ‘root cause’ of IBS can sometimes be a long process, there is HOPE! Just because you have been diagnosed with IBS it doesn’t mean that you just have to put up with the symptoms. There are SO many things you can do to improve or even eliminate your symptoms and I hope that the information above has given you some things to think about (and try!) going forward.